Chapter 7 in Welfare Reform in Rural Places: Comparative Perspectives, (Research in Rural Sociology and Development, Vol. 15), pp 131-150

This chapter is concerned with exploring the lived experience of welfare-to-work policy in rural Wales through the lens of participant observation with young people undertaking the initial course that represents their first encounter with the New Deal for Young People (NDYP).1 I wish to respond to calls for qualitative explorations into marginalised rural life through discussing policy delivery personnel’s2 views of unemployed young people, and how some young people respond to the experience of being a rural welfare-to-work participant. The terms with which welfare practitioners speak about their clients and the client experience itself are both useful ways to look closely at the operation of the UK welfare programme, drawing out particular issues arising in the countryside. The chapter begins with a brief outline of the NDYP as an early mandatory welfare-to-work programme in the United Kingdom, before summarising some of the characteristics of youth unemployment. Drawing on empirical research undertaken in central Wales, I then outline some ways in which frontline practitioners characterise the 18–24-year olds with whom they work, before a detailed look at some individual stories from fieldwork with the young people themselves.